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World Health Day “Planning Family for Healthy and Quality Family Life”

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Karachi: To mark the “World Health Day”, Pathfinder International in collaboration with Pakistan Medical Association and Pakistan Medical and Social Welfare Committee Arts Council Pakistan organized a one day seminar at PMA House Karachi with a theme “Planning Family for Healthy and Quality Family Life”

This seminar was attended by a large number of participants including health professional, journalists, media personnel and civil society representatives.

Key speakers were Secretary General PMA Centre Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, Pathfinder International representative Dr S Siddiqui, Consultant Gynecologist Dr Nighat Shah, Consultant Gynecologist Prof Sadia Ahsan Pal and Public health specialist Dr. Sikander Sohani.

According to speakers every year, the World Health Organization selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day, which falls on 7 April, the birthday of the Organization. The theme for World Health Day 2015 is Food Safety, a theme of high relevance to all people on the planet, and multiple stakeholders, including government, civil society, the private sector, and intergovernmental agencies.

The theme underpins need for a healthy and quality family life. Pathfinder International believes that universal access to quality and affordable services to people would help them plan families to ensure healthy and quality family life.  All of us strive for a good quality of life which broadly means being healthy, happy and fulfilled. The realization of the ‘right to healthy and quality family life’ is intrinsically linked to the recognition of women’s and girls’ rights especially sexual and reproductive rights (SRR). Protection of quality health of an infant is parent’s responsibility.

These links can clearly be shown by looking at two outcomes of human rights violations – child marriage and adolescent pregnancies, which are still prevalent across Pakistan. Early and child marriage and adolescent pregnancies deprive young girls of education and employment opportunities, leaving them in poor bargaining positions and excluding them from critical decision making. These in turn increase their chances for a risky pregnancy and childbirth, including infant and maternal morbidity and mortality. Additionally, pregnant young women have to compete with the nutritional demands of bearing a child – a double burden on their own development, as well as the development of the child growing in them. They are often stunted as a result of under-nutrition, and in turn bear undernourished children. Malnutrition and under-nutrition is associated with poor health and quality of life. Micronutrient deficiencies directly affect mental/cognitive growth and functioning. Under-nutrition results in anemia, wasting and stunting. Deaths and disabilities from unsafe abortion are also particularly higher among married adolescents, due to several socio-cultural and structural barriers to access to safe abortion services.  Well-spaced births therefore help ensure food safety and well-nourished infants.

Women’s reproductive choices of the number of children they want, and when they want them is not only a women’s right but is also empowering, helping women to be healthy and ensure quality family life. Spacing pregnancies and having fewer children has its benefits like it makes it easier for women to participate in economic and other work. Life can become less of a struggle amid the soaring prices of food, high costs of social services and continued erosion in the real value of money. The inability to make these critical life choices is a major obstacle for poverty reduction, food security and wellbeing for all and especially for women. Social pressure for large family size, opposition by husband and other family members and unavailability of quality FP services continue to limit women’s rights for sexual and reproductive life.

In Matlab Bangladesh, a family planning and maternal and child health (FPMCH) program was introduced in 1977. The program evaluations and outcomes have shown that family planning is strongly associated with women’s health improvements and their economic productivity outside of their household as well as their household assets. The results show that adoption and continuation of family planning not only improve mortality and morbidity of mothers and children but also improve health and quality of family life. As Sindh government negotiates to formulate its strategy for FP2020 agenda with the termination of the timespan given for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Pathfinder calls for “universal access to quality, and affordable services to help people plan family ensuring healthy and quality family life.

April 15, 2015

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